Regina– In a swearing-in ceremony like no other in Saskatchewan, Lieutenant-Governor Russ Mirasty swore in a new cabinet. He did so wearing a mask, as did all others in the room, including re-elected Premier Scott Moe.
It was in keeping with public health order the previous week requiring masks to be worn in all public places in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert. The ministers did not have their families in tow, rather, they sat widely spaced in the hall at Government House in Regina.
Moe called the Nov. 9 event a “very different ceremony.” He noted it’s also the first significant change to cabinet he’s made since becoming premier.
Moe reiterated his principal campaign point, asking, “Who do you trust to lead the economic recovery coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring that life in Saskatchewan is more affordable for everyone?
“Yes, we're still in the midst of this pandemic, and we need to do everything that we can do to control the spread of this virus. And we will do everything that we can do to protect Saskatchewan people in Saskatchewan families. We can protect lives and livelihoods, at the very same time, and we will do them. The economy is recovering here. And the people of Saskatchewan, have decided to place their trust in our government to ensure that our province continues to move forward, continues to progress, and continues to grow.”
“It is an honour to put in place a new cabinet to guide a government with a strong, new mandate from the people of Saskatchewan,” he said.
The new cabinet represents a major shuffle, with just five cabinet ministers remaining in the same portfolios.
Donna Harpauer will become Saskatchewan’s Deputy Premier, taking over from Gordon Wyant. Harpauer has served in every cabinet since the election of the current government in 2007 and will be the first woman to hold the role in Saskatchewan in more than 30 years, the release noted.
“Donna Harpauer is one of the longest-serving cabinet ministers in the nation and without a doubt among the most capable and hard-working ministers in Canada,” Moe said. “I am confident that Deputy Premier Harpauer’s depth of experience will be a tremendous asset, and I look forward to working closely with her as we work toward a strong economic recovery and balancing the provincial budget by 2024.”
Harpauer also retains the portfolio of Minister of Finance, a role she has held since 2017.
Four other MLAs retain their current cabinet portfolios. Christine Tell remains Minister of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety. The addition of Public Safety reflects an added cabinet responsibility for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency.
Jeremy Harrison remains Minister of Trade and Export Development and Minister of Immigration and Career Training while adding responsibility as Minister Responsible for Innovation Saskatchewan and Minister Responsible for Tourism Saskatchewan.
David Marit remains Minister of Agriculture and Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation.
Bronwyn Eyre stays on as Minister of Energy and Resources.
Nine cabinet ministers are being shuffled, and three more MLAs are joining cabinet.
Don Morgan moves from Justice and Attorney General to become Minister of Crown Investments Corporation and becomes Minister responsible for all major crown corporations, including SaskEnergy, SGI, SaskPower, SaskTel, SaskGaming and SaskWater. Morgan remains Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety and Minister Responsible for the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board. This is a change from the previous cabinet, where major Crowns like SaskPower and SaskTel had separate ministers responsible for them.
Jim Reiter leaves the Ministry of Health and becomes Minister of SaskBuilds and Procurement, Minister Responsible for the Public Service Commission, and Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority. Reiter will “oversee a new approach to the management of all infrastructure projects and assets, standardized government procurement and IT infrastructure through the creation of the Ministry of SaskBuilds and Procurement, a ministry that will be established from the merged responsibilities of the former Ministry of Central Services and SaskBuilds,” the release noted.
Dustin Duncan goes from Minister of Environment to Minister of Education.
Gordon Wyant leaves education and deputy premier to become Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
Joe Hargrave goes from Crown Investments Corp. to become Minister of Highways and Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Water Security Agency.
Paul Merriman leaves Social Services and becomes Minister of Health.
Gene Makowsky switches from Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport to Minister of Advanced Education.
Warren Kaeding leaves Rural and Remote Health and becomes Minister of Environment.
Lori Carr goes from Government Relations to Minister of Social Services.
Three MLAs are entering cabinet. Don McMorris re-enters cabinet after previously serving in Health, Highways and Infrastructure, Crown Investments, Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance, Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, Public Service Commission, and the Lean Initiative. McMorris left cabinet in 2016 after being convicted of driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of .08. At the time he was Minister Responsible for SGI and deputy premier.
McMorris becomes Minister of Government Relations, Minister Responsible for First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs, and Minister Responsible for the Provincial Capital Commission.
Laura Ross becomes Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport, and Minister Responsible for the Status of Women.
Everett Hindley becomes Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health. Hindley’s portfolio includes a new, priority focus on mental health and addictions resources, programming and funding, while retaining a priority focus on Seniors and Rural and Remote Health.
“As a cabinet, we are taking up our duties during an uncertain time in this province,” Moe said. “But there is every reason to be optimistic as we work toward building a strong, vibrant, growing Saskatchewan.”
The size of cabinet remains unchanged at 18, including the Premier. The Saskatchewan Party caucus numbers 48. Moe noted they have 30 additional members that are capable of serving in cabinet.
“Today is about some renewal in a number of files,” he said.
“We have not hidden from the fact that we are going to use infrastructure to foster out economic recovery here in the province,” Moe noted, pointing to Reiter’s SaskBuilds portfolio as a priority. Additionally, the new ministers of Health and Rural Health will be meeting with the Chief Medical Officer of Health to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, including future distribution of a vaccine.
Eight MLAs will serve as legislative secretaries, including Lyle Stewart, David Buckingham, Doug Steele, Fred Bradshaw, Todd Goudy, Nadine Wilson, Ken Francis and Terry Dennis.
Due to personal circumstances, Christine Tell was unable to attend the swearing-in ceremony and will be sworn in to her additional cabinet responsibility in the coming days.
Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury